Textbook Errors

Come to think of it, neither Eohippus nor Archaeopteryx feature in my textbooks either. But then we concentrate more on human evolution, and there is even the odd piece of creationist-baiting in there too.

I shouldn’t need to tell you about the recent creationist trouble in Korea. But if you don’t know, Nature has the lowdown: South Korea surrenders to creationist demands.

The Institute has reacted surprisingly swiftly. Today’s Creation Science Update, by Christine Dao (who we haven’t heard from in some time), claims instead that South Korea Moves to Correct Textbook Errors. Because you see…

Science gained a victory when South Korea’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology announced last month that textbook publishers will correct editions that contain misinformation regarding evolution. The push for the corrections is being led by the Society for Textbook Revise. Nature reported that the revisions will remove “examples of the evolution of the horse or of avian ancestor Archaeopteryx.”

Now how is this a ‘victory for science’ when changes are being forced through via textbooks? If decisions are being made in this manner – without the consultation of biologists I might add – then no matter who were in the right this would still be a defeat for science. This is not how science is done.

Zoologist and Institute for Creation Research senior lecturer Frank Sherwin said that statement isn’t entirely accurate. “Archaeopteryx has always been Archaeopteryx,” he said. “It didn’t evolve. Paleontologists have unearthed a total of 11 of these specimens, and most agree it was of a single species. So, where’s the evolution?”

This article may be technically written by Dao, but much of it is actually Sherwin quotes. What’s interesting about these 11 specimens is that there are in fact many differences between them (although this may perhaps be explained by different ages of the birds). Given anyway that all taxonomic classifications above the species level are arbitrary I fail to see what he’s driving at anyway: why would it matter how many Archaeopteryx species there were?

Mr. Sherwin, co-author of The Fossil Record with geologist and ICR president Dr. John Morris, recently wrote an Acts & Facts article with ICR science writer Brian Thomas that stated:

I covered that article just a couple of days ago. The quote given here is:

The idea that dinosaurs evolved into birds is also misleading. The poster child of Darwinian change is Archaeopteryx, an alleged link via therapod dinosaurs between reptiles and birds. However, unlike dinosaurs, Archaeopteryx had a large braincase for the increased motor control and sensory input that were required for flight. Theropods had a lizard-like pelvis that was distinct from a bird’s frame. Furthermore, Archaeopteryx had a robust furcula (wishbone), a trait characteristic of strong fliers—one that keeps flight muscles from crushing the bird’s delicate internal air sacs. No evidence supports the story that such fully formed wings with fused clavicles “evolved from” the tiny, clavicle-free theropod forelimbs. Even claw measurements of Archaeopteryx fall within the range of true perching birds [A. Feduccia]. It was a bird without a single transitional feature.

Well, if we are talking about erros here I’ll remind you that the fused clavicle claim is demonstrably false – many theropods also had this feature and their version is much closer to that of the Archaeopteryx than said bird’s is to modern birds – as are many of the other claims in the above paragraph.

Mr. Sherwin also said that the removal of horse evolution from textbooks is good for science, especially in light of a 2009 study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that called for “revising the recent evolutionary history of equids [animals including horses, zebras, and donkeys] using ancient DNA.”

Again, I have serious issues with the “good for science” claim here. But as for this 2009 study – the name of which is actually Revising the recent evolutionary history of equids using ancient DNA, the full text of which is available at that link – Creationists in general and Sherwin in particular seem incapable of telling the difference between ‘revisions’ and ‘everything we know is wrong.’

“‘Horse evolution’ has fallen upon very bad times,” Mr. Sherwin said. “Consider this: Many specimens placed as separate species are actually variations of the same species. That team of 22 international researchers found that for evolution to be true as taught in textbooks, there had to be sudden bursts of diversification—Cambrian-like explosions within the horse family. That’s contrary to Charles Darwin’s prohibition of great and sudden leaps.”

What “prohibition” is this – and why should we care? Evolution has moved on from Darwin, you know.

He continued, “Reading the research, one concludes these animals suddenly appeared in the fossil record without the expected gradual evolutionary transitions. Horses then appeared quickly all over the world. Finally, as expected by creation scientists, the skeletal features of fossil horses do not match up with the molecular data (ancient DNA) that they studied.”

Wait, why is that what creationists would think? Where does their barimonological whatsit predict it? Doesn’t the fact that “many specimens placed as separate species are actually variations of the same species” mean that we have a quite fine-grained picture of horse evolution? And aren’t all of these animals all part of the horse ‘kind’ anyway? The mysteries mount.

Dao concludes:

Students, whether in South Korea or other parts of the world, deserve the best education their countries can offer them. Correcting inaccuracies in textbooks is an important step in the right direction.

Not really. Textbooks contain many perfectly innocuous inaccuracies, from that aeroplane thing to the claim that tounge-rolling is a good example of mendelian genetics (or even genetic at all). It doesn’t really matter – indeed, time spent removing them is probably mostly time wasted.

But more to the topic at hand, the NCSE reports that an organisation similar in some ways to their own is desperately needed and is being organised. (They also claim that the “Society for Textbook Revise” is better referred to as the “Committee to Revise Evolution In Textbooks,” and is an “independent offshoot of the Korea[n] Association for Creation Research,” which seems to be nothing to do with – but far more powerful than – the ICR. [ED: It would seem that the KACR is actually something to do with the ICR, having been set up by them in the early 80’s.]) We’ll see how this plays out over time.


42 thoughts on “Textbook Errors

  1. Whilst I’m no horse evolution export I’m still not sure that the horsey paper is saying what they thing it is saying. As far as I can tell the biggest revision of horse evolution is that Hippidion (a small horse from South America) split a lot more recently from the rest of the horses than previously thought. That and that some giant zebra from Africa seem to be just regular zebra and that there are a few new species identified via this DNA analysis (ala the Denisovans).

    It’s also worth noting that this study is dealing with species <10 million years and thus ignores most of horse evolution. Indeed, the "cambrian explosion" phrase appears to be referring to their introduction in which they briefly summarise the bits of horse evolution so far.

    "The original linear model of gradual modification of fox-sized animals (Hyracothere horses) to the modern forms has been replaced by a more complex tree, showing periods of explosive diversification …This explosive diversification has been accompanied by several stages of geographic extension

    A new geographical niche becomes available and animals begin to adapt to it. Totally contrary to the accepted model of evolution there.

    And the anatomy =/= genetics claim also amused me given how they use morphology to lend credence to their genetic conclusions on numerous occassions.

    the skull proportions of a giant Cape zebra from Elandsfontein (South Africa) showed a close affinity with true Cape quaggas, in accordance with our genetic findings

    Our analysis of tooth morphological data shows more consistency with the molecular phylogeny

    As far as I can tell their morphology data=/=genetic data idea comes from the following sentence. It’s about the only time they directly disagree with the anatomical analysis of these specimens.

    In contrast with our molecular findings, previous morphological analyses suggested similar metapodial proportions to classical E. hydruntinus from Western Europe, the Crimea, the Middle East, and Caucasus, although the former was larger and more robust.

    “Dude, the analysis of some foot bones of 3 specimens was a bit off. All morphological evidence for evolution must be discounted.”

  2. “No evidence supports the story that such fully formed wings with fused clavicles “evolved from” the tiny, clavicle-free theropod forelimbs”

    Quite apart from the fact that clavicles *are* now known in theropods, this is hilarious. They think that all theropods had arms like T rex!

    “That team of 22 international researchers found that for evolution to be true as taught in textbooks, there had to be sudden bursts of diversification—Cambrian-like explosions within the horse family. ”

    This statement is completely made up, and nowhere in that article. However, be that as it may, there certainly *are* some explosive radiations with in horse evolution, especially the great diversification of the subfamily Equinae at around 18 million years ago (paralleled by a diversification at the same time in the now-extinct subfamily Anchitheriinae)

  3. I didn’t read the article, but Ken Ham was trying to refute horse evolution recently – in his Around the World with Ken Ham blog for 28 April. He is dissatisfied with the Kentucky Horse Park, which is in the same state as his Creation Museum.

  4. “South Korea surrenders to creationist demands.”

    Evolutionists speak as though South Korea is some entity separate from it’s people and government. South Korea is a CHRISTIAN NATION. Plain and simple. Be honest for once. Stop appealing to the ignorance of others.

    • I was unaware that ‘~30% Christian’ made a country a ‘Christian Nation.’ In addition, you can’t rope in every Christian as a creationist.

    • Let’s just say they outnumber Buddhists and all the other minority religions in South Korea. That to me means that they are a Christian nation overall.

    • But the non-religious outnumber even the Christians – would that make them an atheist nation “overall”? And again, remember that not all of these Christians will be creationist (especially not the Catholics), which is the actual group we’re talking about. The Nature headline was not “South Korea surrenders to Christian demands,” was it?

    • It is not. Many, many Christians think creationism is in fact an embarrassment to the faith. The Catholic church, for example, has come out in favour of evolution. My family is Christian (though I am not) and yet they are not creationist.

      And if you are going to say that to be a Christian you must be a creationist then you are excluding many of the people who say they are Christian in the census – some of which aren’t even religious – and that rather ruins your ‘Christian nation’ claim further.

    • Lol–how can one claim to be Christian without God as the creator? What is God to them then–a friend and confidant? Ridiculous. If what you mean is that they believe in creation that was then guided by evolution, then that is still a creationist view–albeit a bastardized creationist view. One that completely contradicts the Bible and thus what it is to be a Christian.

    • Many would disagree, and indeed be quite insulted by that. Claiming that you can say what is and is not ‘Christian’ is how wars are started, you know.

      But it doesn’t matter whether what they believe is theologically sound or not, merely that they believe it. Or not, as the case may be. If you ask a person “what religion are you” they may still give one, even if when asked “are you religious” they answer “no.” Many people don’t give much thought to these matters, so even if they go to church – and it were true that you have to be creationist to be Christian, which it is not – they might still believe in evolution as well. Given the specific examples being dropped here this might be of interest to you also.

      So, are you still arguing that this creationist lobbying represents the ‘will of the people’?

    • “So, are you still arguing that this creationist lobbying represents the ‘will of the people’?”

      Yes. Since neither of us actually live there, we cannot say definitively what the will of the people is. You don’t even necessarily have to be religious at all to disagree with evolution and may actually support getting it out of old textbooks.

    • “But to be a Christian IS to be a creationist, is it not?” Even if that is, technically, correct (it’s not really correct in reality as some Christians believe in creation AND evolution rather than only creation) there are many different sorts of Christian creationist. For instance Hugh Ross is an old Earth creationist, but in a recent US TV discussion where young Earth creationist Ken Ham was also a participant the latter made very clear that he didn’t think that his fellow creationist is being Biblical enough – to Ham anyone agreeing with Ross (even if they also reject evolution) is a ‘compromiser’.

    • I don’t keep up with anything AiG does, but I will look into it. Eric Hovind is a YEC like his father so I would suspect that AiG’s stance on him would be the same. And Ham would be right about Ross being a “compromiser.” Pretty much like it is with the Pope where anything is acceptable now.

    • That sounds like Young Earth Creationism to me. Which takes its knowledge from the BIBLE, NOT from observation of the natural world and the experimental method (except on the rare occasions where the physical evidence can be roughly matched to the book of Genesis).

    • People who are YEC simply get their knowledge of our origins from the Bible. Nothing more. Just as you get your (mis) information about our origins from a textbook. YEC study all the sciences just as you do.

    • Reply to synapticcohesion’s latest comment.

      People who take the Bible as infallible knowledge of origins have NO right to call real science ‘pseudo-science’ unless they can show that the real science is wrong.

    • Evolution is not real science. Chemistry is real science. Biology is real science. There’s countless other real sciences out there. Evolution isn’t one of them.

    • The burden falls on the person who stated “evolution is not real science”. That was you.

    • The undeniable fact is that most of the world is still not convinced that evolution is a scientific fact and thus so not mandate that it is taught in schools and universities. So, yes, the burden of proof falls upon the evolution proponents to convince the scientifically-minded at home and around the world.

    • “With that logic, you are saying that atheists who say, “God is not real” are also left with the burden of proving their statement”.

      So what? When did I call myself an atheist (though I am rather doubtful that an invisible God exists)?

      And the ‘undeniable fact’ you quote appears to be a made-up fact, as you provide no statistics to back it up. I suspect you live in the USA – where there are, i would agree, many evolution-sceptics.

      I do not know whether microbes to man evolution is true, but the theory IS scientific. I DO know that Earth is billions of years’ old.

      You also continue NOT to support your claim that “evolution is not real science”.

  5. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if they watched one of Kent Hovind’s videos and felt humiliated about being duped into accepting the pseudoscientific farce known as evolution as took the necessary steps to alleviate their shame.

    • The third YEC participant in that US TV debate (alongside Ham and Comfort) was Eric Hovind. Do AiG think Eric is also a ‘bad’ creationist – or only Kent? Perhaps synapticcohesion knows?

    • I read that this morning – it’s very good. I’ll be borrowing some of those figures next time this subject comes up, if you don’t mind, as what you have are much better than what I could find. 🙂

  6. Pingback: Creationist horse feathers « Playing Chess with Pigeons

  7. evolution is fact, common ancestry is not scientific. Its just an assumption or unproven hypothesis like “life on earth could’ve started from outer space”, “life created by God”, “or came through the circle / the folding of time”.
    Operational science can be considered as fact, but historical accounts are not as reliable, and therefore you can’t say that common ancestry is invalid, or creation is invalid. Both are yet to be proven true.
    But I’m a Christian I’d put my faith in God and the Bible. Koreans need to adopt such attitude, you can’t tell to students “this is the fact” while it was not. I used to think that the “ascent of man” was fact as it is, as well as Haeckel’s embryo pictures.

    Creationism is not bad as long as they are always opent to objective criticism.

  8. What I can’t understand in all of this, is why creationists even bother to get into arguing the details of the evidence, blow by blow. If you believe that “God did it” and that God can do anything, then for all you know the universe could have been created six minutes ago, with a perfect God creating a perfect back-story, including all your memories, all historical records, all the fossils and this post to boot. All simply manifestations of ‘His’ (or Her, or Its) perfection. Six minutes, six thousand years, six billion, if he did a flawless job no one would be able to tell the difference. Most of us think such an explanation is extremely unlikely, but if you choose to believe it, we can’t actually prove you wrong since the “God hypothesis” is untestable and so outwith the bounds of science.

    OTOH, most of us prefer to take the world as we find it, even when we begin to realise that it doesn’t all revolve around us. This attitude, as refined into the scientific method, has led to most of the significant advances, intellectual and technological, in the human condition, as encapsulated in the saying, “the Lord helps those who help themselves”. No doubt you use modern medicine rather than asking the priest to pray for you when you’re sick, and so on. But really you can’t pick and choose science as it suits you. Reject one part and you must logically reject it all. But then logic has never really been their strong suite …


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